Archive for August, 2016

Quail

Looking from the railing


It was my never my intent to go out and become anything. It was back at the beginning of the urban chicken movement. While I can remember at least one house in the town I grew up in that had chickens wandering about the yard, it just wasn’t that common at the time I decided to get a few hens. Our town was a suburb of a large metropolitan area and this was back before having city chickens was cool.

Fast forward and seemed like everyone was starting a garden and getting chickens, even the city dwellers. A lot of municipalities were moving to legislate how they would allow or not allow chickens. We had moved a little further out, but still in an urban area at the edge of the suburbs. Our city had decided to only allow chickens if you had at least 3 acres, which didn’t include us. We had more like a 1/10th of an acre, so chickens were a no-go. So I pouted around for a little while. Then I decided to actually read the city code and it put a crazy thought in my head. You see while the code was very verbose on the who, what, where, when, and why of chickens, cows, goats, and horses it was a little thin on others animals. It had a short list of animals that were strictly forbidden – pigs, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl. It allowed for pets, specifically dogs, cats, rabbits. The code had a final general section that required a special use permit for other domesticated animals, “except fowl which were covered above”. Hmmm….. So I thought there were lists of fowl specifically allowed or NOT allowed. One of my favorite sayings is “It is easier to ask forgiveness instead of permission”. While researching chickens I had seen references to raising quail and since they were NOT specifically restricted, I went for it.

There was a lot of good information on the internet about raising quail, but it was spread all over the place and didn’t really address the needs of small back yard quail keepers. So this website was born. I started documented my journey from knowing nothing about quail, to raising, butchering, incubating eggs, etc. It has been a great and delicious trip!

So now that I am “The Quail Man” what can I do for you? Feel free to ask questions in the comments of this post so we can all share in the answers or feel free to use the contact page to get a hold of me directly. If I dont have the answer I will do whatever I can to find out.

What do quail eggs taste like? Can I eat fertilized quail eggs?
Given that you feed the quail a commercial game bird feed, the eggs will taste the same as chicken eggs. If they have a different diet it can affect the taste, but not much. I have also been asked about eating fertilized eggs. There is no problem eating fertilized eggs, the problem comes in if you dont collect, clean, and refrigerate them daily. If it is super hot (90F plus) or super cold (below freezing) you should collect eggs at least twice a day.

Why raise coturnix quail? Why raise quail? Why keep quail?
Quail, especially coturnix quail, are easy to raise. They will give you eggs and meat if you desire. Finally, most locations and HOAs do not restrict them like chickens or ducks. Need more information check out my post “backyard quail – ten reasons why they are the perfect backyard animal”

Why aren’t my quail laying eggs? When do quail lay eggs? When do Japanese quail start laying?
Japanese coturnix quail will start laying eggs around 8 weeks old. A couple things that might affect this is hot or cold weather, age, and gender. Seems obvious, but make sure you have a female quail. Also, a lack of fresh clean water or good quality food can also decrease egg production.

What to feed quail?
I recommend a good quality commercial game bird feed. I tend to use Purina game bird products because they are available locally and easy to use. You can do some research online if you want to mix your own, but it is difficult to get the nutrition, protein level and vitamins just right. So proceed with caution! At one time I tried to feed some treats of grass/weeds/bugs, but my birds didn’t seem to get it, so I stopped.

What is a group of quail called?
A group of quail is called a “covey”.

What sound does a quail make?
Different quail make different sounds but the Japanese coturnix quail make a sound like a cricket chirping. The males do “crow” but it it is very soft. My urban neighbors didn’t know I had quail until I told them.

Can you free range quail?
The direct answer is “no”. Quail do not roost in the same place each evening, so if you release them they are not coming back. See my “free range quail” post for more information.

When do quail eggs hatch?
Typically they take 17 days to hatch. I say typically because modern quail, coturnix in particular, have had the ability to sit on and hatch eggs breed out of them. This means you will have to use an incubator. Differences in temperature and humidity can cause some eggs to hatch earlier or later. But nothing more than a day or two each way. So 16-19 days.

Quail when to start regular feed?
I feed my new quail chicks game bird starter feed with 30% protein for at least the first three weeks, then until it runs out after that to finish the bag. Then I start them on adult game bird feed of at least 20% protein.

I hope this was helpful to someone. Feel free to use the “contact for”m if you have any other questions or need more information.

Been a while since I posted, so thought I would begin with a post for folks looking to get started raising quail for eggs and/or meat in their backyard.

1) Cage or pen
You will need a minimum of a 2X2 area for each pair or trio of birds.  This is a minimum and more is better.  The needs here are pretty simple, something to keep the birds in and predators out.  While there are a lot of crazy flight cages and things you could build, I recommend starting small and building up to it.  Check Craigslist or eBay for a rabbit hutch or something similar. Place it in a location that gets good ventilation, but not direct sun in summer. I also recommend a raised cage with a screened bottom. This allows for a cleaner area for the birds to live in without you constantly needing to clean it.

2) Birds
OK, this seems obvious, but be careful. Some birds have specific requirements, limits, or permits in different states and locations. I recommend checking your state and local requirements before making any purchases. For beginners I highly recommend Jumbo Brown Cortunix quail. These birds are easy to keep and identify the male from the female based on feather color. Also, they usually have no state or local restrictions. They too can be found on Craigslist. If you are daring you can get an incubator and some hatching eggs, but might want to save that for later.

3) Feed
I recommend a good quality game bird feed of at least 20% protein, I use Purina brands. Some folks want to mix their own so they know what the birds are eating, but it is very hard to do this and provide proper protein and nutrition/vitamins needed by the birds. Just starting out go with store bought and if you want to mix your own, transition the birds to it slowly later so you can watch for any problems.

4) Water
Fresh clean water, fresh clean water, fresh clean water! Get it? The birds need fresh clean water at all times regardless of weather or season. In the heat of summer, fresh clean water. In the middle of an ice storm in winter, fresh clean water! It will depend on your cage setup how you do this, but give it some thought or try different things For me, down the length of the cages I added a piece of PVC pipe with a slot cut into it. This allows me to easily clean it out or remove ice.

5) Time
Lastly, anything you do requires some time. Quail do need much! Feed them once a day, fresh clean water twice a day, collect eggs and remove waste as it builds up. I can do all of this in about 10-15 minutes a day and 15-20 minutes extra on weekend to clean out from under the cages.

Hope this helps and inspires someone to get started raising quail!